Off and on for the past several years I have watched bald eagle families on a live cam in Florida. It is sponsored by a realty company and has four cameras active at all times. The main one is aimed into the nest and lets you watch the entire process from egg laying through hatching and then much later the young ones taking their first flights.
On January 23, this year, two eaglets (E17 & E18) hatched on the same day which is unusual. For several days we watched as they were loving fed by H (Harriet) the Mom, and M the Dad. They were wonderful parents in every way. On January 29 I was devastated, as I’m sure were all watchers, when the nest was empty. There was a typed message that they had been removed by CROW. I was so sad to think that those little balls of fluff were kidnapped and no doubt killed by a crow.
It took a while for me to learn that CROW stood for the Clinic for Rehabilitation for Wildlife! The clinic staff had noticed that E17 and E18 had an eye problem. Their eyes were partly shut and had an exudate and CROW swooped in to help. Using a cherry-picker to reach the nest they took the eaglets and moved them to the clinic for treatment.
Although this is a good thing that they were able to help the little ones, it was still very sad to see Harriet and M sitting on the branches of the tree looking out and wondering where their babies had gone.
An update stated that the eaglets were doing well and should be put back in the nest after two weeks of treatment. By my calculations that should be around February 12 so I stopped watching the sad empty nest and grieving parents. To my surprise on Friday, Feb. 5 a friend texted me with the exciting news that the babies were back so, of course, I started to watch the little ones all alone in the nest. It was sad and scary. Hour after hour passed and I wondered if the parents were going to return. I was so afraid that the eaglets would become weak from no food. I knew that CROW staff was watching the camera and knew more about the situation than I did, but still I worried.
Finally, in late afternoon the parents returned. They took turns with E17 and E18, brooding, feeding, fluffing the nest. Isn’t nature wonderful? You can now check in on this bald eagle family anytime you choose. Over the weeks ahead they will grow, explore and eventually take their first flight. We can enjoy the progression and look forward to H and M’s next brood.
First, it is important to know it is illegal to injure or possess an indigenous bird. There are special facilities such as Raptor Rehab licensed to rehabilitate injured birds, but most veterinarians do not have the resources nor experience to handle injured wild birds.
When birds first leave the nest they are not fully able to fly and spend two or three days on or near the ground. Pet owners need to keep cats and dogs indoors during these sensitive nesting times.
What to do if you find a baby bird out of its nest:
First of all, determine whether or not the bird is injured. If it is not, make sure there are no animals nearby that might harm the bird. If a bird is found on the ground, gently replace it in its nest. It is not true bird parents will not care for a baby once it has been touched by a human.
If the nest is unsafe, place the bird in a small basket and nail the basket to the tree near the original nest, out of direct sunlight. If a basket is unavailable, a small plastic container with holes punched in the bottom to prevent drowning will do. From a distance keep an eye on the baby to see if the parents return. If they do not return in an hour call your local Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for help.
If the basket idea sounds far fetched to you, let me assure you it works. I have witnessed this successfully twice when my husband and later my daughter used a basket to save baby birds.
If the bird is injured
Do not give the bird any food or water!
Prepare a small cardboard box by punching holes in the sides and top for ventilation
Gently place the bird on a towel or soft cloth in the box and place the box in a dry warm spot
Call your nearest DNR or rehabilitation center
Source: Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky, Inc.
“Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?” David Attenborough